You wouldn’t think that Doug Mientkiewicz would have something in common with Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle. That’s why we keep Steven Goldman around.
When teams rush to pull off a big trade at the deadline, does it really end up helping their chances? Steven Goldman takes a look back at previous trades to sort out what the results really were. This time, the Minnesota Twins.
Vaughn should have been solid for 1911, but a number of things were working against him. Hal Chase, the gambler, was the player-manager and is presumed to have subverted many games. Vaughn missed a month with an “illness,” and didn’t pitch well when healthy. He opened 1912 the same way, and manager Harry Wolverton–the New York Americans were going through a manager a year in those days–decided to send him to Providence of the International League. Vaughn balked, saying he would refuse to report unless given a small cash bonus and part of the sale price.
This simply wasn’t done in those days. Players were expected to accept their place as chattel. The Yankees waived Vaughn and probably expected him to drift back to the minor league fringes, but Clark Griffith, now managing the Washington Senators, put in a claim and added Vaughn to his staff. Griffith still liked Vaughn’s stuff and thought that Hilltop Park, home of the Highlanders, might have worked against the pitcher. Whether that was the case or not we will never know, but Vaughn found himself in Washington and was never lost again, though it took the scouts a while to figure it out.
From now until shortly after the non-waiver trading deadline, “You Could Look It Up” will examine the key mid-season trades for each franchise (with “mid-season” being generously defined as “June 15 to the end of the regular season”) and evaluate each trade to see what a mid-season addition is really worth, and if possible to discern patterns and discover which deals really help and which are of little or even negative value. After we break down each trade, we’ll come to a “snap judgment,” a hasty conclusion. At the end of the series, we’ll see if those judgments add up to any helpful conclusions…
”You Could Look It Up” is a weekly look at the game’s present through the funhouse mirror of the past. Today we begin an experiment in unguided writing, an experiment in blue sky time travel without a thesis. From now until shortly after the non-waiver trading deadline, YCLIU will examine the key mid-season trades for each franchise (mid-season being generously described as June 15 to the end of the regular season) and evaluate each deal to see what a mid-season addition is really worth–and if possible, to discern patterns and discover which deals really help and which are of little or even negative value.
After we break down each trade, we’ll come to a “snap judgment,” a hasty conclusion. At the end of the series, we’ll see if those judgments add up to any helpful conclusions. In each installment we’ll highlight a team or two, alternating American and National League clubs. The first two installments will highlight the opponents of the 1992 World Series, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves.
On Thursday night, the Yankees and Red Sox played an epochal extra-inning game, possibly the most compelling contest of the season to date. This was the game in which Derek Jeter flew like a deranged Superman into the third row of seats in short left field. A consequence of If Jeter Had Wings was that Jeter had to leave the game and the Yankees were out of infielders. Alex Rodriguez slid over to shortstop and Gary Sheffield, who had last played third base in 1993, was called upon to take A-Rod’s place at the hot corner.
Sheffield’s first chance came on a Kevin Millar grounder. The outfielder looped the throw over first base for an error; it was clear that he had forgotten both the range and the mechanics of playing the position. The Red Sox, already up by a run, had Dave McCarty and Cesar Crespo due to bat. An obvious strategic question presented itself: could the Red Sox run up the score by bunting the ball at Sheffield?
Every once in a while you have a day or a week that flashes back to other, older days and weeks.
Last week, the United States and Great Britain signed a treaty pledging to protect the wreck of the Titanic, which sank beneath the waves in 1912; Roger Clemens and Mark Prior faced off in a pitching match-up that was a descendant of one in 1912; and a boob from Texas mistreated a four-year-old fan in a way that made one wish it was 1912. John McCain even had an opportunity to bolt the Republican Party last week, but apparently no one told him that Theodore Roosevelt had done so with honor back in 1912, because the Senator refused to go along with the 1912ness of things. Baseball, though, was unabashedly singing
Homo sapiens emerged from Neanderthal man about 38,000 BCE. It took another 31,500 years or so for the Sumerians to invent the wheel. There were 315 centuries of watching stones rolling downhill, fallen trees being pushed aside, dates falling off the table, before experience and observation could be transformed into principles (Hey! Round stuff rolls! Round stuff that rolls might be useful to have!) and those principles then put into practice (We should try to make round stuff that rolls!). Of course, as with all good ideas, some people never bought in. The Western Hemisphere did without the wheel until the Europeans showed up. Either the locals were too busy eating the corn to roll the cobs or they just didn’t think much of wheels.
As with the wheel, so too with the amateur draft, which kicked off in 1965 as a way to finally bring down those annoyingly persistent Yankees. Many of the lessons that have been taken away the draft–high school pitchers are riskier bets as college pitchers, don’t draft high school catchers, etc.–were there to be found after the first few drafts, but it took several more years before experience hardened into a set of principles.
In this week’s Pinstriped Bible (one of the other columns in the Steve Goldman media empire, the entirety of which can be yours for a song), a reader takes your host to task for suggesting that an incident that took place last week involving Gabe White should be a hint to managers to pay attention to the rule book for bonus competitive advantages. Around here we take any excuse to delve further into a worthy thesis, in this case, that gamesmanship is, or should be, a major component of the manager’s job.
The White situation was very simple. The Yankees lefty entered the team’s May 26 game at Baltimore in the sixth inning with the Yankees leading 7-6. The game was momentarily delayed when the umpire asked White to remove a gold chain. With the chain removed, White gave up consecutive hits, allowing another run to score and setting up a blown save for future Hall of Famer Tanyon Sturtze. After the game, White claimed that he had pitched badly because he’d been unnerved by the umpire’s request.
One of the values of knowing history is that you can recognize repeat situations when they arise. We humans are pretty creative, but somehow every generation has to work itself into some scrape that a previous class already tried out. Sometimes it’s a historical blunder on the scale of invading Russia from the west with winter coming on; other times, it’s just hiring Raul Mondesi.
The benefit to recognizing a repeat situation as it manifests is that you can call it off before, say, you trade this year’s Jay Buhner for this year’s Ken Phelps, or your Iraq becomes your Vietnam, and consequently someone else’s problem. In some cases, it’s just fun to know that even if you missed something the first time around, chances are it will come up again so you can see it for yourself. For example, it’s safe to say that none of our readers were in attendance at Game Six of the 1917 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants, and so they didn’t see the controversial play that iced the championship for the American League. Fortunately, Monday’s Angels-Blue Jays game was just as good as a time machine–and not just any time machine, but the deluxe model with the cruise control, the heated mirrors, and the side mirrors that fold down when passing through a dangerously narrow aperture, handy for automotive proctological exams and navigating the capillaries of longtime smokers.
The score was tied 5-5 with two out in the bottom of the 10th at Toronto and two runners on. Chris Gomez was standing on second. He had reached on a fielder’s choice, then was pushed into scoring position by Eric Hinske’s walk. Simon Pond came to the plate. Pond grounded to first baseman Casey Kotchman, who dove for the ball and knocked it down. Pitcher Ben Weber stood at first, waiting to receive the ball for the 3-1 put out. Gomez rounded third, trying to score. Second baseman Adam Kennedy picked up the ball and fired it to catcher Ben Molina. Gomez was now in a rundown. Molina chased him up the line, then threw the ball to third baseman Alfredo Amezaga. Gomez reversed field and headed back towards home. Amezaga threw the ball to…he didn’t throw it to anyone, because there was no one to throw it to. Gomez scored. Game over.